Chef Mashama Bailey Is Bringing Her Award-winning Southern Food to NYC

Chef Mashama Bailey, Lamb dish

As New Yorkers continue to adapt to life during a global pandemic, the city continues to breath new life into the things that make the city special — from safely reopening popular tourist attractions to building an entirely new infrastructure for outdoor dining and limited-capacity in-person dining. 

On Dec. 3, INTERSECT by Lexus, an innovative culinary experience in the Meatpacking District, will reopen its doors so guests can “embark upon a new gastronomic adventure,” with celebrated southern restaurant The Grey serving as its fifth restaurant-in-residence. Helmed by Chef Mashama Bailey — a New York native who won Best Chef Southeast at the 2019 James Beard Awards and stars in an episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table — The Grey will be serving up her award-winning take on Savannah’s Port City southern food, with dishes like oyster hand pies, pepper vinegar braised collard greens, and whole roasted snapper. 

To celebrate the reopening of INTERSECT and The Grey’s temporary stint in NYC, Travel + Leisure spoke with Chef Bailey to hear what it’s like being the first African American woman to take over the program, what it means to return to NYC, and a few of her must-visit restaurants when she’s back in the city. 

INTERSECT by Lexus dining room

T+L: Tell us about what you’re bringing (back) to NYC when The Grey takes over INTERSECT by Lexus? 

“I hope that I will bring the wider perspective of American cooking that I have gained during my education in the south. Being in the place of my ancestors and my heritage has changed my own view on food and the influence African Americans have had on American cooking.”

What’s your favorite dish or one you’re most excited to share during the residency?

“I have a few favorites, but I love the Chicken Country Captain. That dish tells a story about Savannah in a global way. It touches on the spice trade and traditional low and slow cooking.”

Having spent many years working and training in NYC, how does it feel to be bringing southern flavors and dishes back up here?

“It feels good. One of the most revitalizing things I was able to do while living in NYC was visit my family in Georgia for the holidays. I always returned rested and with a deeper understanding of my family’s food. I have loved having the opportunity to cook in the South for the past few years and I am excited to do the same going forward.”

As the first Black female chef taking over INTERSECT, where do you think the industry is in terms of becoming more inclusive and what advice do you have for other BIPOC chefs coming up right now?

“The more people who look like me at the helms of their own kitchens and businesses will open the doors for others to follow. Representation is so important and if people can see it they can believe it. As for advice, keep pushing for your dream and do the work!”

Has food helped you during the pandemic? 

“Honestly, not in a way I expected. I imagined myself cooking daily and being very creative, but I focused on nesting. It turns out that I spent lots of time ordering take-out and focusing on our food businesses which has helped me put my own business in perspective.”

What are your personal favorite restaurants we should all have on our radar? 

"I go to the same places when I am visiting New York and I haven’t been home in over a year.  So, I would say Atoboy is at the top of my list and Prune, of course. I really hope Gabrielle reopens.”

As a chef, where is somewhere you think people need to go to experience the food? 

“I haven’t done a lot of traveling, but one of my favorite places to eat in the world is Paris — hands down. And, Bologna has this essence of hometown cooking that I crave. I can’t wait to go back.”

Reservations for The Grey at INTERSECT by Lexus are now open.

Tanner Saunders is the Associate Digital Editor of Travel + Leisure. He would really, really love an oyster hand pie right now. Follow him on Instagram @Tizanner.

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